Lowering the Pressure: A TCM Approach for a Common Cardiovascular Issue
Feb 01, 2019 01:35PM
● By Ming Wu
Are antihypertensive medicines helping or harming our bodies? Recently, the benefits of treating high blood pressure with antihypertensive medicines have been called into question. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in October 2018 found that treating mild hypertension (untreated BP 140/90-159/99 mm Hg) in low-risk patients didn't improve mortality or risk of cardiovascular disease compared with no treatment, in a cohort study involving nearly 40,000 patients. During a median 5.8 years of follow-up, mortality and cardiovascular disease rates were similar between groups, but those treated with antihypertensive medicines experienced higher rates of hypotension, syncope, electrolyte abnormalities and acute kidney injury.
Another article published in the British Medical Journal in the same month also reported disturbing results. The researchers found that angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs), a type of blood pressure drug that millions worldwide are taking daily, are associated with a higher risk of lung cancer, compared with other types of drugs. It showed that patients on ACEIs were 14 percent more likely to develop lung cancer, and the risk went up the longer patients were on the medication. Those taking them for five years were 22 percent more likely to get lung cancer, and the risk rose to 31 percent if they were on them for 10 years.
Scientists believe the drugs cause the accumulation of a chemical called bradykinin on the lungs, which in turn leads to cancer. Although the risk to individual patients is modest, the absolute numbers of patients at risk for lung cancer is potentially large because ACEIs are widely prescribed, say the researchers.
High blood pressure is not a disease, but rather is often caused by blood that’s too thick and viscous to flow freely through the body’s small capillaries. In order to make sure good circulation is taking place, the heart has to pump harder, thereby raising blood pressure. This is the body’s way of making sure this thick blood reaches all the cells throughout the body, because cells that don’t receive blood will die sooner.
Healthy blood shouldn’t be so viscous. It should flow more freely. When blood is properly hydrated and nourished with the right fatty acids (more omega-3s in particular), the heart does not need to work as hard to pump it throughout the body, so blood pressure automatically drops. It’s like the difference between sucking water and honey through a straw—the more sticky and thick the honey, the more pressure it takes to move it.
Western medicine diagnoses this situation by saying that high blood pressure is itself a disease, and high blood pressure is attacked with drugs that artificially lower blood pressure by forcing artery walls to relax. Unsurprisingly, the thick sludge blood is no longer reaching all the cells it needs to reach, so we end up with circulation problems.
Hypertension, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is characterized as dizziness, excess liver yang, and liver and kidney yin deficiency. TCM believes that excess wood (liver) qi will damage the soil (stomach), therefore weakening the spleen and stomach, causing headaches, dizziness and even stroke.
Most hypertension cases are chronic, but there are also acute cases. The former is more common in the middle-aged and older population. The onset is slow. There are no obvious symptoms at the early stage, and even for those that have symptoms, the symptoms tend to vary from person to person. The acute cases are more common in young people, with rapid onset and rapid progress which can quickly lead to heart, kidney and cerebrovascular problems, and cause various complications.
Hypertension patients often experience headache, dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia, numbness of the limbs, shortness of breath and irritability, among other symptoms. At the early stage, the patient’s blood pressure is elevated, but the level can fluctuate. At the later stage, blood pressure level rises continually, and hypertension starts to cause damage to the heart, kidney, brain and other organs, worsening the symptoms. Clinically, the specific stages are determined by the patient’s blood pressure levels.
TCM believes that the various symptoms of hypertension are mainly due to damage to the liver. Liver governs the dispersion and discharging function of the body, and therefore, stagnation and blockage are harmful to the liver. Strong mental stimulation, excessive thinking and being too nervous can cause stagnation in the liver. An unhealthy diet can also affect the functions of the organs, causing yin/yang unbalance, and in turn harming the liver. Also, when the body lacks sufficient energy, which can damage the organs, the liver cannot get enough nutrients, thus leading to liver diseases.
In the progress of hypertension, most patients started with excess syndrome, such as excess liver fire, and gradually transformed into deficiency syndrome. Excess yang can damage yin, and when yin is weak, the yang can seem to be even more in excess. At this stage, the patient’s condition is having deficient yin and excessive yang. As the condition progresses, the organs and yin and yang all suffer damage. Yang grows steadily weaker, and the patient’s condition becomes mainly yin deficiency. In the end, both yin and yang are deficient, and the patient’s condition becomes true deficiency.
With that being said, a doctor should still differentiate the symptoms, and choose the treatment based on the individual’s specific situation. They should change the medicines prescribed when the patient’s condition changes. For example, for patients with excess yang, some need reducing method, while others need reinforcing the yin to restrict excess yang. To achieve satisfying results, one needs to differentiate symptoms and root cause. However, whether the results are satisfactory cannot be simply based on the blood pressure numbers, but comprehensive analysis.
Using TCM syndrome differentiation method, we can generally divide hypertension patients into two types: one with excess yang, and the other with deficient yang.
Deficient yin and excess yang. Symptoms include: dizziness, red face, tinnitus, palpitation, insomnia, irritability, loss of balance, sore and weak waist and knees. This is mainly due to insufficient kidney water, so the liver is malnourished. Therefore, the yang excessiveness in this situation is not true excessiveness, so the appropriate treatment should not aim to treat excess yang, but reinforce the yin. When the kidney yin is sufficient, excess yang will be balanced.
Deficient spleen and kidney yang. This type of patient is more likely to experience dizziness, tinnitus, weakness in the waist and knees, chills in the limbs, and even weak and swollen lower limbs, urinary hesitancy, nocturia and sometimes spermatorrhoea. It is commonly seen with late stage stroke patients with paralysis on one side of the body. For this type of situation, the treatment should be to reinforce spleen qi and strengthen kidney yang.
If hypertension has affected the heart, common symptoms include palpitation, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, tinnitus, weak waist and legs—with palpitation and irregular pulse being the main characteristics. The correct treatment is often adjusting the Ying Qi and Wei Qi, and strengthening the heart, spleen and kidney.
When treating hypertension, it is important to use the appropriate formula to adjust the body’s yin and yang, and to restore the functions of the organs. It is even more important to motivate patients to seek changes in lifestyle and lift their mental burden. Patients with hypertension should exercise regularly, balance work and rest, have a regular eating schedule, avoid milk and milk products, eat less meat and more vegetables, drink five to six cups of ancient tree Pu’er tea every day, avoid excessive thinking and adopt other healthy lifestyle habits.
Dr. Ming Wu is a master herbalist with decades of experience and thousands of years of wisdom. He uses herbs to help stimulate the body toward self-healing. Wu Healing Center is located at
45 S. Main St, West Hartford. Visit WuHealing.com.
Pu’er Tea for Lowering Blood Pressure
In the U.S., it is a common belief that to combat high blood pressure, we need to take drugs daily for the rest of our life. But Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers another solution.
Drink Pu’er tea, Huang Jing tea or herbal tea daily, eat chia seeds (13g daily), eat more living nutrients, reduce the consumption of animal products, cook with Chi daily and focus on enjoying life.
As for the all-important tea, the recommendation is King’s Pu’er Tea. To make it, put 1 teaspoon of the tea into a teapot, pour 4 ounces of water in the pot and steep for 15 seconds. Pour tea into a cup, sit calmly, breathe in the steam and sip slowly. Do this about 10 times a day with the same tea leaves.
Within 24 hours or less than 10 days after embracing such lifestyle changes, blood pressure normalizes, as the blood itself becomes more hydrated and free to flow throughout the circulatory system.
King’s Pu’er Tea is available through Dr. Wu at Wu Healing Center in West Hartford. Visit WuHealing.com.